December 06, 2002
Long Beach Unified School District is looking into a requirement that students participate in community service projects in order to graduate. If the Board of Education approves such a requirement, the LBUSD would become the largest public school district in California to make service learning mandatory for all of its high school students.
The board is likely to vote on a service learning proposal early next year. If approved, implementation could begin next fall.
Service learning incorporates many traditional community service-type activities that extend learning opportunities outside the classroom into the community to increase academic achievement. Students would be expected to contribute 40 hours of community service that could include direct services such as tutoring, beach cleanups, recording books on tape, presenting anti-tobacco lessons, and even building homes for low income families.
Here's how it works in West Fresno:
• The Fresno Fire Department determined that many homes in the community, particularly those of low-income senior citizens, did not have working smoke detectors. However, the fire department was unsure how many homes were affected. Working with firemen and a local TV station, 38 ninth graders from the West Fresno School District got involved.
• In math class, students developed a survey to determine which seniors needed a smoke alarm. In science class they learned about the dangers of burns and smoke inhalation, particularly for senior citizens. In language arts classes students wrote public service announcements and press releases. Then the firemen trained students about smoke detectors.
• Students, accompanied by firemen, went door-to-door in their neighborhoods to survey residents about their knowledge of smoke detectors and to check for properly functioning smoke detectors. Students distributed fire department literature on smoke detectors. If a senior needed a smoke detector, students provided it. The community work by the students was recognized by the Fresno City Council, the West Fresno School District, Fresno County Economic Opportunities Commission, Retired Senior Volunteer Program and the Fresno Fire Department. Students wrote about their activities in journals in language arts class and compiled a report about the project for the fire chief.
Benefits of service learning projects like this include active learning, improved academic achievement, improved thinking skills, improved character, improved social behavior, stronger ties to communities, exposure to new careers, a more positive learning environment, stronger community groups and increased community support for schools.